THE ABSENT - out now!


Out Now - For sale on Amazon and other onlne book sellers


Out Now


My first book of poetry available through Amazon and other online booksellers

Friday, January 27, 2012


When I was a boy, I had an active fantasy life imagining there were two invisible ghosts, one younger, one older, on the balcony of the apartment where I lived with my parents.  I developed over those elementary school years a whole mythology for them, not just about their ghostliness but a whole biography and family history as well as ongoing adventures.

A long time later, when I was an adult and going through a hard patch of loneliness and unemployment, I also made up a fantasy life.  In this case, it was one of several scenarios based on what had happened if it studied other subjects in school and gone on to different careers.  Again, it started off generally but soon developed its own complex structure with me living a completely separate life.

In both cases, changes of life led to me forgetting these fantasies and moving on.

In the case of Dick Covey, protagonist of THE VODI, he is revisiting a fantasy life he and a friend talked about constantly as kids.  They built it up into something that was part of every aspect of their lives, only losing interest when they entered high school.  Dick is in a position to revisit this as he is, at the beginning of the story, bedridden in a sanatorium due to Tuberculosis.  He is in his mid 20’s and is a veteran of WWII (the story takes place in the late 1940’s early 1950’s).

Dick and his friend Tom created half- animal, half human, ferret like creatures called Vodi, who were arranged in a hive and presided over by a huge fat old hag named Nelly “who had only four teeth in her head”.  They are responsible for everything bad that happens in life.

What The Void and Nelly mean to the story could be interpreted in many ways because this is a book with many themes, many topics all skillfully weaved together.

In fact this is one of the most complete novels I have ever read.  The story is not especially complicated although it does move backwards and forwards but there is so much going on due to the fact that Braine is using the narrative to address many ideas, notions, opinions, observations.  Using a novel as a vehicle for this type of exploration is difficult to pull off but Braine does it flawlessly.

Among the themes covered are the illness as life changing event and the idea of a good attitude as a cure, childhood patterns set early and attempting to conquer them in life, the growth of England after WWII and the end of a certain type of life, how hard it is to start a small business.  All this plus very good commentary on the dating habits of young 20 something men and women at this time.  Also in there is never giving up in the face of adversity.  Dick’s illness teaches him this and at the end he is about to take a chance as far as an employment business opportunity involving his father and also not giving up on love chasing the woman he is truly interested in.

The end may seem a bit rushed as we go from Dick bedridden to Dick up and taking day trips away from the sanatorium and the final scene of him leaving very quickly for good but I don’t think all the connecting detail that is not explicitly written is going to be necessarily pertinent.

When one reads a book that that leaves you with a very full picture of the events described in conjunction with a solid theme or themes running throughout, I think it is fair to say that book is a masterpiece and THE VODI is such a book.

 I’ve written about John Braine before  I would say THE VODI is the best I’ve read by him so far certainly his most experimental, challenging, and complete novel.


I’m jumping right in to the bibliography of Beryl Bainbridge with three novels – THE BOTTLE FACTORY OUTING, YOUNG ADOLPH, and THE BIRTHDAY BOYS.

Bainbridge was a writer who started off as a female variation of the angry young man working class writer of the 1950’s mixed with observations on the social experiments/evolution of the 1960’s.  Around the late 1980’s, she turned into a writer of historical fiction albeit not of the starchy, stiff kind but rather more surreal with multiple viewpoints often part of the story.

THE BOTTLE FACTORY OUTING, which seems to be the best of her books according to the consensus of literary critics I’ve read and which I’ll be reading first, is an example of the first type of Bainbridge’s novels. YOUNG ADOLPH and THE BIRTHDAY BOYS are an example of the historical type.

In an obituary for Bainbridge (She passed away in 2010), her writing is described as “mordant” which can be sarcastic or incisive.  I’m hoping for both.  I will post reviews as I finish each book.  


Wednesday, January 25, 2012


THE ABSENT, my next novel, will be out soon.

Here'a little info on the background of the novel and an excerpt

The backcover blurb

“I take capitalism personally” In THE ABSENT  a nameless and almost faceless narrator’s experience as an employee at a modern medical supply company in transition becomes an everyman’s tale of the disenfranchised American worker.  Faces begin to emerge from a crowd of names as the narrator settles into an acceptable job, yet the narrator’s generally nihilistic and hostile attitude towards the so-called American Dream is understandable, as we find the busy hive of his colorful co-workers eliminated one by one in the name of efficiency.  Their attitudes emerge between detailed observations of inter-office politics and off-time spent in drunken escapades and extra-marital affairs—and we discover our narrator mostly reflected by his relationships to those around him: an inverted story, as much from the co-workers’ perspectives as the eye of the narrator.    

                This is a first person account throughout however, and although we find the narrator’s recalled attendance at college more of an education in hilarious alcoholic escapism (an education that comes in handy after work as well), he does seem to learn that other people can be worthwhile companions.  These are real human beings, much like the 99% of the Occupy movement, losing their jobs, security, and peace of mind to corporate greed and the financial gain of the few.  THE ABSENT is an indictment of employment driven by efficiency over humanity; and here Raj Dronamraju has again nailed his target with deft nihilistic precision. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012


MY HOME IS FAR AWAY is Dawn Powell’s “serious” novel.  That is it does not have the screwball satiric tone of her other books mostly set in the hustle bustle of post WWII advertising age New York such as ANGELS ON TOAST which I reviewed here  and THE LOCUST HAVE NO KING which I reviewed here .

That isn’t because she writes in a more serious way.  There is a tone to the recollections of her childhood and young teenage years that is not bitter or angry despite the hardscrabble life she had.  Rather, she views it all as a big adventure and her descriptions are not tainted by negative feelings.

Because make no mistake, while some of the actual details are not necessarily true (For example when the middle sister based on a young Dawn Powell runs away, she actually stayed with an aunt not strangers as the book tells), MY HOME is largely based on Powell’s early years in Ohio.  The death of her mother, her father’s lack of responsibility and remarriage to a cruel, abusive stepmother, the relationships with her other two sisters are all events out of Powell’s life.

Regardless, this is an excellent novel.  It is clear from the detailed, painstaking descriptions and the methodical timeline discussions of what is occurring in specific years, at specific times that this based on real life experience but it is also a powerful story with wonderfully fleshed out, original, eccentric characters (the kind we all have in our lives and characters each with their own quirks and/or dysfunctions).  This is a narrative of a tough childhood that ranks with MY CHILDHOOD by Maxim Gorky in terms of power.

The cruel stepmother scenes in particular are really powerful.  Of course, it might mean more to me because my stepfather was an evil person and a similar type of personality and I could relate.  However, I do think Powell invests this character with full-on foulness that anyone could relate to.  

The fact that someone like Powell I associate with a different kind of writing can produce something like this makes me respect her even more.  On my future reading list are more of her books –THE WICKED PAVILION and  THE GOLDEN SPUR.     

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


(I will be getting back to posting more book reviews now that I’ve received some new books to review)

I would disagree with the writer who wrote the introduction to Christina Stead’s second novel THE BEAUTIES AND FURIES as far as how important the character Marpurgo is to the end of Elivira and Oliver’s relationship and how important he is overall.  He is a great character but Elvira and Oliver’s relationship is doomed from the start.

After all, Elvira is the bored wife of an older English physician who runs away to Paris with her younger student lover.  Paris is where they met Marpurgo and where the story is set.  One sees from the outset the fling-type nature of their involvement. The spoiled yet stifled wife, the woman looking for a fantasy is paired with the grad student with little and no money who still is on the make for other women.

Elvira’s marriage to the very patient Paul seems modeled on Christina Stead’s own marriage which was rumored to be “open” and the relationship between Elvira, Paul, and Oliver is much like the three pointed relationship that makes up the closing 100 pages or so of Stead’s later book FOR LOVE ALONE which I reviewed here

At this point in her career, BEAUTIES ,much like her first book THE SEVEN POOR MEN OF SYDNEY, is stronger on prose than plot.  Later books like her masterpiece THE MAN WHO LOVED CHILDREN (which I wrote about here ) and HOUSE OF ALL NATIONS ( which I wrote about here ) had stories to match her use of language.

For Stead starts off with a semi-poetic prose that is like the thundering hoofs of a poetic buffalo stampede so powerful so unreal so big and pushy and breathless in its word combinations and streams of similes is her language and descriptions.  Even though this is not her best book, I noticed language more in BEAUTIES perhaps because the plot is so simple.  That made reading it worthwhile and very entertaining as did the machinations and changes in fortune of Elvira, Oliver, and the Iago from OTHELLO counterpart Marpurgo.

She is still my favorite female writer of all time….That has not changed! 


Monday, January 16, 2012


The amount of ink spilled by so-called liberal and progressive sites such as Alternet, Think Progress, The Nation, Salon, etc. in the running of articles critical of Ron Paul has reached an exaggerated, overblown, and ridiculous level when compared with his standing in the race.

I like Ron Paul as I’ve discussed on my blog many times specifically for his foreign policy positions and stand against the drug war but I’m the first to admit he will never be president especially if he sticks with the Republican Party.

However, when one considers the number of articles critical of him on these so-called lib progressive sites, it would seem like he is the front runner.  When you compare the number of articles criticizing Paul with the number of articles criticizing Romney, Gingrich, Santorum etc. who have an equal and in Romney’s case much better chance of being the Republican presidential nominee it boggles the mind.

The obvious reason for this is to attempt to scare away those of a leftward persuasion from drifting towards Paul due to his stands on US militarism, civil liberties, the drug war etc. Of course, the big reason this drifting is happening isn’t due so much to the attractiveness of Paul’s ideas as it is to the complete failure of President Obama to stand up for these ideals even to give them the barest defense instead we have a president sending troops into Yemen, Uganda, Nigeria, signing the bill on indefinite detention, not closing Guantanamo Bay despite promises, continuing the drug war crackdown.

So this can be seen as an attempt to scare these voters back to Obama despite his being worse on these issues than Paul.

However, if I can play armchair psychiatrist for a moment, I would like to offer another reason.

Like the battered wife who projects her anger with her abusive husband on the men she has future relationships with, I feel many of these liberal/progressive sites are projecting their angry disappointment with Obama onto Paul.  They know Obama has failed and they know that if he is re-elected (highly likely I would say at this point) he will continue to disappoint.  But instead  of getting behind another candidate to mount a primary challenge to the president to force his hand on these issues he should be supporting anyway, they have decided to take out their frustrations on Paul a distant shot at the presidency from another party but who is better on several core issues than the Democrat president.

It is petty.  It is sad.  It is part of human nature.  It does not bode well for the future of America.  




On a music forum I sometimes post on, another poster around my age (mid to late 40’s) made a comment that they were happy with all the music they had heard so far in their life and no longer felt the need to seek out or listen to any new bands.

This statement for me applies to how I feel about movies with the exception of horror movies which is where I feel the innovation is these days.  Other than that, the big Hollywood productions have become even more trite and predictable, more narrowed down to what is deemed acceptable by marketing focus groups without anything even remotely challenging thrown in, CGI special effects have also played a negative role here as they often have become the movie themselves, carrying the film, rather than an effect.

Independently made American movies have also gone downhill (This is not necessarily true about films outside the US as this has become the medium for artists in emerging nations).  In the US, indie films about human relationships have become precious and overly quirky, Wes Anderson’s oeuvre as template.

So I don’t have a list of the best films of 2011 but I did see one non-horror film this year which I thought was fantastic and that was TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY. 

This is one of those films that work separately from the source material.  I’m not a fan of spy novels and not a fan of John Le Carre(the author of the TINKER source novel) who with his byzantine plot labyrinths and bureaucratic language is unreadable to me.  However, the filmmaker accomplishes the seemingly impossible task of making this long, complicated story fit in a two hour film without any compromises in the narrative.

In addition, he uses the story to pump in a lot of other subtext on topics that only a film could handle – loyalty, inter-office politics, the nature of truth, the loneliness of the life of the superagent George Smiley , the hero of TINKER very much in control, but with a sad personal life.

A big part of the success of this film is the large cast  of excellent actors– Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, John Hurt among others turn in first rate performances and I especially liked how everyone got a chance to shine – Everyone is given their moment.

This is the type of cerebral action film Hollywood used to make – The plot of the film revolves around catching a mole or double agent in the highest rungs of the British secret service an organization called The Circus.

So in a year where film ceases to matter, where everything is readily available producing a reaction against spontaneity in film, here is a movie that you can submerge yourself in which is the hallmark of any great film.  I can’t wait to see it again!

Thursday, January 12, 2012


In my evolution of political thought, one of the issues, perhaps the biggest issue, that pushed me away from Libertarianism was my belief in a national healthcare system.  I believe in a truly humane system and that the issue of healthcare for the majority of a country’s citizens should not be left to the whims of the free market and one should also not have to bankrupt themselves due to an unforeseen medical emergency.  I also consider this approach constitutional as I believe it is exactly this type of human welfare issue that the general clause was written for.

That being said, I do not support Obamacare which was the result of a corrupt, flawed, and sloppy process involving the buying of senatorial votes and is filled with loopholes and special favors and was largely written by the insurance industry.

There is the hope that the many problems with it can be corrected by future legislation as was the case with Social Security and Medicare but they both started as much stronger pieces of legislation so I’m not holding my breath.

If I had to come up with my own healthcare plan for the United States, it would involve government run medical centers.  Their distribution would be based on the median salary of the people who live in that area.  Once districts were created, those who reside in them would get a medical card.  If you move, you simply change your address perhaps at the post office.  In order to answer questions about the quality of service, the board that runs each hospital would have to stand for election every 2 or 4 years.  The voters would be the people who live in the district.  The board would be directly answerable to those whom they serve.

Those wealthy enough to afford private healthcare will be free to do so as will anyone else who wishes to do so.  However, they will still have to pay into the system through payroll deduction like everyone else and they will not be allowed to vote in the hospital board elections.

So this issue of healthcare coupled with what I’ve written before about his foreign policy disappointments, makes me want to ask who is Obama?  At this point, what do we know about him?  Is he shallow, weak, unprepared for the job of president after all?

Or is he just ambitious?  We associate political ambition with the vulgar showiness of a sweaty, grasping Richard Nixon or an overeager Al Gore, we have not associated it in the past with Obama’s well-spoken coolness but I think in the end that’s what it all comes down to.

Unfortunately, Obama’s ambition didn’t have any core goals, any core moral structure.  It was the ambition of a high school presidential candidate not someone who really wanted to change things.  That’s the lesson here.  Ambition subtracting real goals, real beliefs, real vision is meaningless and can even be dangerous in some cases.  That type of ambition, even if someone rides it all the way to a higher office, isn’t going to accomplish that much.          

Wednesday, January 11, 2012



Monday, January 9, 2012


BUT MY HOUSE WAS HERE AND OTHER STORIES is a collection of short stories by Gopalan Sellan who is a retired planter of Malaysian Indian origin.  This is his first book of short stories in English although I gather from the author bio that he has written two other collections which were published in Tamil.

What binds these stories together is the estate, the life of the rubber tapper, the estate worker, if not directly then the second generation, the ones who have made it out of the estates, the sons and daughters.  All of the protagonists are Malaysian Indians the descendants of those brought from India by the British during colonial times to work the agricultural estates as rubber tappers or in palm oil.

Probably the most powerful story here is the one that gives the collection its name BUT MY HOUSE WAS HERE in which a man sees the same elderly woman every day who asks for a ride to her house.  The story she tells allows Sellan to fill in the reader on the plight of the modern day estate workers many of whom have been kicked off the estates where generations of their families worked due to the demand for land for development and the selling of estate land for this purpose.  Unable to find work and used to a self-contained life wherein the estate provided schools, living facilities, a community etc., these displaced people become the poorest level of society and sometimes turn to crime.

Sellan also seems to have an ear for the dynamics of Indian family life-the conflicts, the squabbles, the power trips.  Whether it’s the powerless retiree with no control of money given to him in THE OLD MAN AND THE THIEF or the son who can’t seem to appease his strict father in VISHNU or what I think is the second best story EVEN JILLRUBA IS NO CONSOLATION in which a young girl tries to bring peace to her fighting parents by shining her father’s shoes but only makes the situation worse.

A few of the shorter stories fall flat as undeveloped fragments only or existing only to deliver a punchline. The language here is very simple which can be both good and band.  Ernest Hemingway is quoted at the beginning and I can see his influence in the short sentences and terse "just the facts mam" type prose.  I’m a poet by nature and like flowery language to a degree.

I would also like to mention that all the proceeds for BUT MY HOUSE WAS HERE AND OTHER STORIES are going completely to charity. 

Sunday, January 1, 2012


Happy New Year to everyone from Raj Dronamraju! 

Here's a new year's greeting

Just a reminder....I have a youtube page wherein I recite my poetry as well